By Middlesex County Freeholder Deputy Director Ronald G. Rios
When called to the scene of a fire, firefighters bring many specialized tools with them. During the winter months, they bring a rather ordinary, but very important tool to fire calls — a shovel. That’s because very often when they arrive, they find a fire hydrant is still buried in snow.
If a fire hydrant is covered by snow, it can be difficult to find, and valuable time must be spent digging it out. It may take anywhere from 4 to 6 minutes to dig out a buried fire hydrant, whereas fire itself doubles in size every 30 seconds.
The added time it takes to gain access to a working water supply may allow a fire to grow and become even more dangerous. When you’re dealing with fire, every second counts, which is why the Middlesex County Fire Marshal’s Office would like to ask residents and businesses to consider clearing the snow from around a fire hydrant near their homes or businesses this winter.
Please be sure to check your local ordinances and with your municipalities as to your responsibilities regarding fire hydrants and snow removal. If you do decide to dig out a hydrant, please exercise caution.
Clearing the snow approximately 4 feet around the hydrant and shoveling a path from the street up to the fire hydrant will keep it accessible. This will ensure that the hydrants are visible and will allow firefighters to quickly obtain a water supply and give them room to work around the hydrant should the need arise.
You may also consider helping a neighbor with a medical condition or a neighbor who is elderly by shoveling out a hydrant in front of their home. This act of kindness will benefit the entire community.
Clearing the snow from around a fire hydrant is a voluntary, informal act that may save lives. Although it is not necessary to notify your local fire department which hydrants you will be digging out, this voluntary act goes a long way in community safety.
On behalf of the Middlesex County Fire Marshal’s Office and fire departments throughout the County, I thank you for your assistance in keeping fire hydrants clear and keeping our communities safe.
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